Colonial Government and Politics

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What were the nationality laws in the thirteen colonies?

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The nationalization laws in the colonies were born of both Parliamentary law and colonial law. On the Parliamentary end, citizenship had previously been granted by Parliament. Individuals born in England were already considered citizens, but individuals born in the colonies had to be naturalized as English citizens. This initially required...

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The nationalization laws in the colonies were born of both Parliamentary law and colonial law. On the Parliamentary end, citizenship had previously been granted by Parliament. Individuals born in England were already considered citizens, but individuals born in the colonies had to be naturalized as English citizens. This initially required travelling back to England in order to obtain private naturalization from Parliament. This option was expensive, and various prejudices among members of Parliament hindered the process. The Naturalization Act required oaths of allegiance and supremacy from aliens, which would demonstrate their understanding of the superiority of the English. The act also required a religious test in order to bound out non-Protestants.

The Plantation Act allowed citizenship to be conferred in the British colonies in North America. If the individual resided in the colonies for at least seven years with no more than two consecutive months of absence, the individual was eligible to apply for citizenship. This act was meant to standardize the process of naturalization that was already ongoing in the colonies. The colonies had naturalization laws that were specific to each colony. The citizenship conferred on an individual was only valid within the borders of the colony, which created a strange hodgepodge of laws. The Plantation Act helped to limit the diversity of this situation.

In almost all of these instances, non-Protestants were barred from naturalization. Later laws eased some of the restrictions against Quakers, Jews, and other groups. Catholics were barred from obtaining naturalization.

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